Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Reflections on an Amazing Year of Laser Tag

As we’re about to close out the last day of this decade, I’m feeling so fortunate to have had some remarkable experiences in the last year. As one friend of mine recently told me “you’ve done the impossible!” And I would certainly agree that a few of the things on this list certainly would have seemed impossible to me a relatively short time ago. I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my top ten laser tag highlights of 2019.

1. Playing laser tag with George Carter III and in doing so completing my goal to become the first person ever to play laser tag in all 50 states. This was absolutely the greatest highlight of my year without question. I made a little bit of history while playing a game of laser tag with the master, the man who invented the game that started it all…drop mic.

2. Battle For The Fort. Heading to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the draft tournament that was held in September is high on my list for a few reasons. My team coming in first place was certainly the icing on the cake, but this event was significant to me as it brought a few previous tournaments full circle. From where I started with “All About That Base” in 2015 to where our Ascendance team ended our time together (and exceeded everyone’s expectations) at BFTF a few years ago it really meant a lot to be able to return to Fort Wayne and have such a great experience with Team BoB, meet some wonderful people and visit with good friends. I’m not sure, but that weekend might have even brought Hades back to tag!

3. A welcome to the Laser Quest Home Office by LQ president Theresa Stairs and vice president Jeff Morris. I never could have expected the red carpet welcome I received in Mississauga! From being welcomed with a personalized banner at the home office to having a camera following me around the arena to get publicity pics for Laser Tag Day it was an incredibly memorable visit to Canada.

4. Being the first to play Helios 2 in Lansing, MI. This was significant and way more complex to be on top of this first! Three arenas were getting Helios 2 installed at virtually the same time, so it was a race to get me through the doors to play this game at Launch in Lansing, MI before it was available for public play anywhere in the United States. Many thanks to the Launch Lansing staff for making that happen!

5. Interviews at IAAPA with the founders and key players from nearly all the major laser tag manufacturers. This was two days of gathering great info and first-hand stories for a video series I’m producing for the Laser Tag Museum. This was epic and apparently a bigger feat than I realized! I’m so appreciative to all those who took the time to talk with me and share some oral history of the laser tag industry.

6. Victory with Game of Groans. It was pretty unbelievable how the finals of our summer laser tag league turned out. The day of finals I was on the other side of the state and had to race to get to the arena on time. This tournament really showed that anything can happen on any given day as we took a somewhat unexpected first place victory.

7. Great press on International Laser Tag Day. What a thrill to be waking up in Texas to a text showing my journey had made the front page of my hometown newspaper! My goal to play laser tag in all 50 states on the 35th anniversary of the industry got exposure on national radio, industry publications, local radio and print and even resulted in a speaking engagement to a local civic group when I returned home. I’m so glad that something I did resulted in a little positive press for the industry.

8. Presenting a plaque to George Carter III in recognition of his 35th anniversary of Photon. It was no coincidence that I planned my trip to Texas on International Laser Tag Day, which marks the anniversary of the day it all began with the opening of the very first Photon center in Dallas, TX. I was able to present a commemorative plaque to George Carter from the Laser Tag Museum and thank him on behalf of laser tag players everywhere.

9. Tagging at my 300th arena. I can’t believe I’ve played more than 300 arenas just in the time since starting this blog. That feels unreal! And my 300th arena (Laser Quest Wichita) also marked the completion of my goal to play at every currently active Laser Quest location in the United States. Next year…Canada!

10. PHOCON 2019. This year it was particularly special to return to PHOCON as it was the fifth anniversary of the first one (the 30th birthday celebration of Photon back in 2014), which is really what started me out on this amazing laser tag journey that I’ve been on ever since. PHOCON lit the fire in me to return to laser tag after an extended time away from the game and when I returned, I came back with a passion ignited to experience everything I could…and way more than I ever expected!

So, at the end of this remarkable year I want to thank everyone who has been part of this adventure with me. 2019 will go down in my mind as one of the most amazing years I could have asked for in terms of my personal laser tag experiences. What a ride!

Comments or Questions?

Contact: Tivia@tiviachickloveslasertag.com

Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Darklight Christmas Tournament

I set out for New Jersey on the Sunday before Christmas to be part of the first ever Christmas tournament at Laser One in Wantage, NJ. I didn’t know how many people would actually show up on the weekend right before a holiday, but I was delighted to see they had an excellent turn out!

I showed up early in order to get in a few practice games before the tournament began and chatted with the owner, Jim, about the things to be attentive to with this system. He pointed out a few things (including the accuracy bonus) and this was the first time I connected the similarities between Darklight and Intersphere….interesting to note!

I almost never get to play this system and made a point to participate in this event mostly as a way to get some practice in before (hopefully) competing with it again in May. But it was also a chance to experience some unique game formats that I would not ordinarily have the chance to play.

I had signed up as a “standby” player and waited to see what team I would be placed with. Typically, this results in my landing on an underdog team and (by their own assessment) that was the case when I was added as the final player to Team “Duh”. So, that’s where things started. However, I really did enjoy playing with this group made up of Ariana (Ants), Kazzy (Artemis), Arjun (Personman), Aiden (Nytra) and Vincenzo (X-Tron).

The tournament was to be played in games with three teams playing each other in each of five game formats. The first place team would get 4 points, second place would get 2 points and third place would get 1 point, all to be added at the end. There were six teams with six players each, so every format would be played twice to make sure all the teams played the format once. This worked with the math. My only issue as to the balancing of this tournament was that we didn’t have a chance to evenly play every team on every game format. However, as this was a first time event I do give credit that this worked out as smoothly as it did. Jim gave the briefing before each game.

The first game we played was Team Basic.

This was simple enough. We went up against Pyrus Uprising and Mandalorians, the two teams that appeared to be the strongest competitors. I was pleased enough that I pulled third place in the arena (which was first on my team, just underneath the two strongest players in the event) and our team finished in second place that round. I didn’t realize at that moment that this was indicative of how the entire tournament would go. I consistently pulled third in the arena, first on my team and we took second in every round we played except one.

As we compared scorecards around the table one of my teammates said to me “I don’t mean this to be mean, but I didn’t expect you to do that well. Taking 3rd in this group is REALLY good.” I appreciate that and later in the night I equally appreciated one of my other teammates telling me “you’re carrying our team.” However, we needed to get the entire team to play hard to stay in contention for a placement.

The next game was Team Blasters.

That was followed by The Rush.

This was the point when I realized something was slightly out of balance with the schedule because I noticed we had played the top team three times in a row, which was a little out of balance. This is actually how the match-ups ended up, so we probably should have been playing against the Mandalorians in this round.

We played Pyrus Uprising three times

We played Mandalorians one time

We played Toon Squad two times

We played Walter two times

We played Sausage Party two times

After our third round we unfortunately lost a player as Ants had to leave the event early. There were no provisions for subs, but we also did not incur a penalty, so all that meant was we had to play one player down.

It turns out that didn’t hurt us at all. In fact, the next round of Pink Panther was one of our best. However, it was also a bit of a heartbreaker.

Here’s why that one hurt. We were KILLING it for the majority of the game. The teamwork really started to gel (shout out to Artemis who played exceptionally well this game) and we were holding the lead solidly for most of the round. We got to the final minute and were still holding the lead. I started calling out to the team to hold the base (meaning the GEM) because as long as we didn’t give up a shot on the big credit we would win this one. We held strong as the clock counted down “five…four…three…two…one”…and then…”red team takes the lead”. Ugh!!! What that meant was that they had gotten one glory shot on a high credit GEM in quite literally the last half a second of the game. That one shot was the 1000 point difference that put us in second instead of first and, quite frankly, the one shot that turned the entire outcome for our team. Now, I realized prior to that moment that we were not going to take first place in the tournament because of the way things had already shaken out for Team Pyrus Uprising. However, we could have, would have (and I kind of believe should have) taken second place in the tournament if that one second of that game had gone differently. Sigh…that’s how the cookie crumbles. That shot also pushed me from first place in that particular game to second, so I felt the hit twice. Again…sigh.

So the final game format of the tournament was Borg Acquisition…sheesh! Read this!

This game actually could have still turned things around for second place, but it was so convoluted that I really didn’t consider it any more than a “try your best and see what happens” kind of game. Well, we took second in the round again, but as for points, that earlier round of Pink Panther pushed the results to look like this, including a tie for the second place position.

But it was a really fun event to participate in and I definitely did learn quite a bit about Darklight that will be helpful to me next time around. Kudos to Team Duh for playing well, quite nearly pulling a much higher placement than they thought likely going into it and for just being a great group to hang out with this night.

Thanks to Jim for putting the event together (and for awarding some very nice trophies).

And congratulations to Team Pyrus Uprising for a well-played tournament and deserved placement.

Thank you to Laser One for hosting a Darklight Christmas Tournament…the red and green lights definitely put me into the holiday spirit!

Comments or Questions?

Contact: Tivia@tiviachickloveslasertag.com

Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com

Tagging with the Royal Rangers

Since I was already in the area, I decided to visit one of the other local laser tag sites nearby. I walked in and found it to be a very quiet night, but a few teenagers were playing the arcade games and the staff told me that this group was just waiting for a few others to arrive. So, I adopted my usual seat and waited as well…and waited. A little more than half an hour went by before anyone else showed up for laser tag, but eventually things turned around when the rest of the group arrived and I realized it was worth the wait. It turns out they had a really good size group of enthusiastic players and once they got everyone organized, I could tell that this would be a good night of tag. Since they all signed up for three games I did as well. Then we went in and had a great time playing some Helios Pro.

After the first game Ian introduced himself. He appeared to be the leader of the group and I inquired about whether they were some kind of club. He told me that they were part of a Christian youth group called the Royal Rangers, part of the Full Bethel Gospel local church, and this was one of their social nights that would be topped off with a trip to a buffet afterwards. How awesome to see this group coordinating fun social trips like this and embracing the fun of laser tag! Youth programs and corporate groups are an important base for laser tag operators to appeal to and I was fortunate that my visit aligned with theirs…and not just because without them it would have been a REALLY quiet night! In my opinion it would behoove this site to move their AYCP nights to Friday and/or Saturday to encourage a more regular base of players to consistently play on the weekends, but for this particular night I was lucky to join up with a great group of players enjoying an awesome game with perfect timing to be out this particular night. It was nice to chat with them in between the games as well. Tagging with the Royal Rangers turned out to be a really great time. Hope we can play again sometime!

Comments or Questions?

Contact: Tivia@tiviachickloveslasertag.com

Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com

Monday, December 23, 2019

Apex in Albany

It’s always exciting when a new laser tag arena opens, especially when it’s right in your own backyard! This weekend I didn’t have to go very far to find a new laser tag site to play because I had a chance to visit Apex Entertainment in Albany, NY during their first week open for business in the Crossgates Mall.

Apex is a large family entertainment center with plenty of other attractions including bowling, food, arcade and a lot more, however my attention was “laser focused” (forgive the pun) on trying out the new Gen 8 Laserforce equipment in an arena that impressed me for multiple reasons.

When I first arrived, I took a seat at a table near the arena entrance and waited for my opportunity to play. While I was sitting there, I ran into two laser tag acquaintances, Don and Josh, who are now part of the Apex staff. Don was kind enough to give me a tour of the arena before the game started and show me some of the ways that Apex made a deliberate effort to give nods to the local community with some distinctive d├ęcor. For example, there is a replica of Nipper, the RCA dog (and Albany’s “unofficial” mascot) who locals know looks out over the North End warehouse district, but now also looks out over the Apex Albany arena.

There are a couple of street signs with local road names.

My favorite locally-inspired element was seeing a representation of The Egg, a performing arts venue known for its unique architecture, that is prominently featured on the wall by one of the parallel raised bridges.

This will be an easy point to reference in the arena as there is a neutral green base target located directly above The Egg.

The other bases are located on opposite walls under structures I’m told represent “City hall”.

Now, I’ll admit I’ve never actually been to Albany’s city hall, but these don’t exactly look like the pictures. However, what’s more important to me is that they also don’t look like the typical base housing I’m accustomed to seeing and that’s a good thing. In fact, all the efforts towards personalizing the arena are what I consider to be a good move! I’ve occasionally been critical of the “cookie cutter” aesthetic of some arenas with CW theming, but this is how you customize an arena space to make it reflect the community and make it memorable.

Something else that makes a big difference is the lighting. I was pretty sure I recognized the DMX light show when I saw the lighting effects inside this arena (and I was right…nice job Beanz).

The arena is about 4700 square feet and they packed a lot into that space. Some of the lower level felt a little tightly spaced, but there are two very open and playable parallel bridges with ramps on either end, which I suspect will be the busiest spots in this arena. The open windows allow for decent cover, but also a clear view for targeting an opponent.

So, time to get in there and play some Laserforce! We headed for the vesting room.

A group gathered to watch the briefing video and then we suited up with the Gen 8 gear, playing fire vs ice.

This is so new to everyone in this area that I didn’t want to play hard on the first game, so instead I just played for accuracy. Everyone did well and I enjoyed learning where the best sight lines were inside the arena. The game was fun and everyone enjoyed! Once the community becomes familiar with Apex and they develop a following in Albany (they are already established in Syracuse, NY and Marlborough, MA with a Virginia Beach site in the works as well) I think it will be interesting to see if they start to offer more advanced game options for return clientele. I’d love to see this site set up some league play. However, if you’re in the mall and looking for a fun place to take a break I’d definitely encourage you to check out the laser tag at Apex.

Comments or Questions?

Contact: Tivia@tiviachickloveslasertag.com

Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com